1:00? am: There's a scratching at the tent door. It sounds like Raleigh is trying to pull the zipper open with his teeth. I put my glasses on, and there he is, sitting there, with a silly grin on his face. Guess he has to go out.
5:15 am: Still stupid o'clock, but it's light out now. Time to get ready to go.
6:30 am: The car is packed, and we're off. Raleigh did absolutely nothing to help. He needs to start pulling his weight. And since he only weighs 22 pounds, it's not much.
Today we'll be traveling about 880 km (550 miles) to Carnarvon, which should take, with stops, about 9 hours. The second half of the drive contains some of the most boring bits of the whole trip. The highlight is crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, and I already got my picture taken there on the drive up.
8:15 am: Passing through Roebourne. If you ever get the chance to go to Roebourne, don't. It's dirty and smelly and they make you drop your speed down from 110 kph all the way to 50. I don't like Roebourne.
9:30 am: We're doing good with the stops today. My wife drove the first hour, then an attack of sleepiness necessitated a driver change and I've been in the seat since then. We were supposed to have gotten to the next stop, Fortescue Roadhouse, by now. However, road construction shut down one lane, and now we're stuck behind two road trains, neither of which will pass the other, and a car which won't pass either. Grr.
9:40 am: Pull into Fortescue ten minutes behind schedule. Instead of staying in the nice shady green grass, Raleigh is insisting on walking in the sun. The plants of the Pilbara don't look as tasty, apparently. Or maybe he's learned his lesson after throwing up yesterday.
10:30 am: When we drove up to Derby, we were stuck at a water crossing for about an hour waiting for the level to go down. It was somewhere between Fortescue and Nanutarra roadhouses. Now, it's so dry that I can even pick the spot where we were stuck. We had to passed it by now. Crazy how the landscape changes so quickly here in Australia.
11:00 am: The landscape around here is dotted with mountains. They're not really mountains, but that hasn't stopped the highways department from putting up signs at scenic lookouts indicating "Mt. Something" and proclaiming heights of 218 meters. Nice try, but I'm from North Carolina, and I know that 218 meters does not a mountain make.
11:30 am: Lunchtime at Nanutarra is finished, and we're back on the road to Carnarvon. Different chambers of commerce have nicknamed their various coasts; Broome has the "Pearl Coast," Exmouth has the "Coral Coast." I call this stretch the "Boring Coast." Do you think it'll catch on?
12:00 pm: It is hot here in Australia. As you learned from school, December is the summer. The temperature in the car has been reading a constant 37-38 degrees Celsius since the sun got high in the sky. 37 is normal body temperature - 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 38, well, that's over 100.
You think that's bad - yesterday, the thermometer in the afternoon was reading 43 and 44. It's like being in a Midnight Oil song: "The Western desert lives and breathes in 45 degrees."
1:15 pm: We pull the ol' traveling greenhouse over for a driver change. Into the cockpit goes J.A. Hart. The American has done this drive before, on his own, so the 160 km left into Carnarvon should be a piece of cake.
In other news, Raleigh says "Yuck-o-rama! The scruby little plants in the Gascoyne do not look tasty AT ALL!"
2:45 pm: Win! We pull into the campsite ahead of schedule by about 30 minutes. Our campsite is great - nice and shady and close to the toilet block. We pitch the tent and head off to find a dog beach.
3:30 pm: Pelican Point is an awesome dog beach. Raleigh was running up and down the beach, trying to avoid the waves and munching on the seaweed. He even made a doggy friend - a pug who was already at the beach. They took turns sniffing each other's butts (as you do) and pointing out the good smells on the beach.
I think Raleigh missed having a beach around. We didn't have that option in Derby - the water was brown and there are salt water crocodiles that would just as soon eat you as look at you. It will be good for him to have his beach back again.
5:30 pm: Time for a nice refreshing dip in the pool. Raleigh would love to come, but he's not allowed.
Speaking of which, yesterday when I was checking in to the other campground, the lady pointed out some sites on the map. "Here's the pool," she said. "You can't take your dog in the pool area."
"Well that goes without saying," I replied.
"You'd be surprised how many people think they can bring their dogs in the pool," she replied.
7:20 pm: I'm now sitting here with a homemade ginger beer and posting this day's entry. I am looking forward to sleeping well tonight.
See you again tomorrow for part three...